Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Respect my brother!

The leader of the 15th Alabama, Col. William C. Oates had a brother named John who was killed during the assualt on Little Round Top. After the war, William Oates had trouble seperating himself from the loss of his loved one and he couldn't get over the Confederate loss at Gettysburg. In his 1902 memoirs Oates would write "Lieutenant John A. Oates, my dear brother, succeeded to the command of the company, but was pierced through by a number of bullets, and fell mortally wounded." In fact John was wounded by six bullets and would die soon afterwards. After the war, Oates tried in vain to get the Parks Commission and the Federal government to errect a momument to the gallentry of the 15th Alabama. At the time, the Confederates had no momuments to their efforts at Gettysburg. Oates failed in his many attempts to honor the 15th Alabama and he died in 1910. No Confederate momument honoring any Confederate unit until the Virginia momument was errected in 1917. Today, there is still no momument honoring the 15th Alabama at Gettysburg just Little Round Top that stands as a natural reminder to the loss of Lt. John Oates and many of the men of the 15th Alabama.

Oates even offered to pay for the momument in full but was refused. He did write out words to be placed on the momument. Here are the words that William C. Oates felt would best honor his comrades

To the memory of Lt. John A. Oates
and his gallant comrades
who fell here July 2nd, 1863.
The 15th Ala. Regt., over 400 strong,
reached this spot, but for
lack of support had to retreat.
Lt. Col. Feagin lost a leg
Capts. Brainard and Ellison
Lts. Oates and Cody and
33 men were killed, 76 wounded
and 84 captured
Ge. Wm. C. Oates who was Colonel of the Regiment
The photo is William C. Oates in 1864
LaFantasie, Glenn W., Gettysburg Requiem: The Life of William C. Oates, Oxford University Press, 2005.
Oates, William C., The War Between the Union and the Confederacy (New York and Washington, D.C.: The Neale Publishing Company, 1905).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Forgotten Battles of the Civil War: The Battle of Wauhatchie, October 28-29 1863

I wanted to make my blog unique from other blogs by talking about unusual and unique things that make it so interesting to me. One element that I am adding to my blog is "The Forgotten Battles of the Civil War". With this feature I will explore an unknown or forgotten battle and provide the importance of the battle within the larger scale of the war. The Battle of Wauhatchie is unique for several distinct reasons. First, it was one of the rare night battles of the war. Battles during that time period were usually fought during the day because it was easier to see the enemy and achieve victory. Secondly, the battle was one of the events that caused dissention and enforced the discord amongst James Longstreet's First Corps. Also, the battle involved Confederate General Evander M. Law and that makes it partiually appealing to me. Finally, the battle has recieved scant attention and when i've read histories of it I always walk away confused about it. So here goes.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee began a siege of Chattanooga after their smasing victory at Chickamuaga in September 1863. After recieving reinforcements and a new commander named U.S. Grant the Federal forces looked to establish a supply line for their troops. Grant felt that the Union army could easily whip Bragg's forces after establishing an opening for military and food supplies. The new Union commander ordered what would be later known as "The Cracker Line Operation" in an effort to break the siege on October 26, 1863.
The Federal objective was the opening of the Kelley's Ferry road which led to Chattanooga from Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River. Also a simultaneous advance up Lookout Valley would secure the opportunity for Grant's army to begin attacking the Confederate siege lines. Federal forces under Brigader General William Smith and Brigader General William Hazen were ordered to establish a beachhead at Brown's Ferry. Meanwhile, three divisions under General Joseph Hooker would through Lookout Valley towards Brown's Ferry. At 3:00 am, on October 27, portions of Hazen’s brigade embarked upon pontoons and floated around Moccasin Bend to Brown’s Ferry. Confederate forces assigned to protect this vital area were easily pushed back and the Federals were victorious in establishing their beachhead.

In order to protect his communcations, Hooker detached Brig. Gen. John W. Geary’s division at Wauhatchie Station on October 28th. After observing these Federal movements, Confederate commanders James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg decided to make a night assault against Union forces. Their assualt was scheduled for 10 p.m on October 28 but confusion delayed their assualt until after midnight. Longstreet put two of his best brigaders in charge of his attack. Brigader General Micah Jenkins was placed in overall command of the movement and his suborniate was Brigader General Evander M. Law. Both men had been rivals for command of one of Longstreets best fighting positions and this conflict would play a role in the battle to come.
Jenkins placed Law's brigade on high ground just east of Kelly's Ferry road. Meanwhile, Confederate troops under John Bratton were ordered to attack Geary. The Federal forces were taken completly by surprise which was made worse by the heavy and confused fighting that followed. Bratton's attacks were beaten off and hearing the sounds of battle, Hooker, at Brown's Ferry, sent General Oliver O. Howard with two XI Army Corps to Wauhatchie to help. These troops ran head long into Evander Law's forces guarding the rear or Bratton's attack force. Law's men inflicted heavy casualites on the boys in blue and even beat back several attacks by a much stronger force. But Law was easily flanked by the Federals and he withdrew from his defensive positions before recieving the order to withdraw. This order would come to haunt General Law for years to come. The causalities for both sides stood at 828. (US 420; CS 408)
After the battle, the commanders on both sides wrote accounts about their troops movements but many of them contridict each other. The Battle of Wauhatchie was a night fight and many of the commanders were confused with what happened to them in the dim of battle. Some Union accounts even state that they were attacked by Longstreet's entire corps which was untrue. Perhaps the biggest myth of the battle was perpetuated by the overall Federal commander. After the war, U.S. Grant wrote an account of how he broke the Confederate siege. He stated that some Federal mules were frightened by the sounds of battle and charged into Law's lines. The Confederates retreated because they thought that caverly was attacking them. In reality, Law's command had already begun to withdraw before the "charge of the mules" took place.
The story didn't end there. A court of inquiry was called to investigate if Hooker and his fellow commanders were "inefficent" during this short campaign. All men were easily cleared of the charges and since the battle was a Union victory they had nothing to worry about. With an open supply line the Union army moved to defeat Bragg and end the siege. By the end of November, after fierce fighting on nearby Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Braggs forces were forced to retreat. The Battle of Chattanaga was another Union victory and it paved the way for Grant's promotion and move east to face off against Robert E. Lee.

For the Confederates, the transition after the Battles at Wauhatchie and Chattannoga didn't go so well. Longstreet attributed the Confederate failure to "a strong feeling of jealousy among the brigader generals". He pushed for charges against Law but these charges were later dropped. I'll save the Jenkins versus Law issue for another blog. However the ramifications for this battle were far reaching because Braxton Bragg would be removed from command after his failed Chattonnoga campaign. This would clear the path for Union General William T. Sherman to begin his march to take Atlanta.

Freeman, Douglas S., Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (3 volumes), Scribners, 1946.
U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 Volumes, Index and Atlas., Washington D.C. 1880-1901.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Now back to my research!

Lately, things have gone well in my research realm as I learn more and more about Evander McIver Law. After providing the Library of Virginia a modest fee they were kind enough to send me two addresses written by Law. The first speech is entitled: "An address, delivered by General E.M. Law, of Yorkville, S.C., to the students of Davidson College on the celebration of General R.E. Lee's birthday." The second speech is titled "The Confederate revolution" : an address delivered before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia at the meeting held in Richmond, Va., May 28th, 1890." I will never forget the Library of Virginia for their consideration and kindness in getting these papers to me. They are professional, honest and helpful in everything that they do. Thank you Library of Virginia.

So far I have only read "The Confederate Revolution" speech and let me tell you it is a good one. Basically, Law's address is divided into three parts. First, he provides a history and reasoning for the South seceding from the Union. The second part is a brief history of the war that must have lasted 20 minutes or so. In the third section he discusses the wars aftermath, honors the memories of Confederate leadership and he pays a stirring tribute to the ordinary privates that served in the Confederate armies.

For me, the thing that stood out the most was Law asking if the Civil War was truly over. "It is true" he says " that the Federal government overthrew secession...but has it relieved it from the danger of revolution and internal dissension in other forms and from other causes?" Law maintains that the "vast accumulation of wealth" to so few people might cause the United States problems in its future. He believes that giving so much power to so few is the biggest reason for corruption and decay within our nation. He accurately predicts the conflicts between labor and their bosses that came during the early 1900's. Law's predictions did interest me because as a society we are wondering about a war that some do not want, rising gas prices, the rise of the cost of living and the need for universal health care. At the end of "The Confederate Revolution" Law was looking into the future which he felt held certain obstacles. He does continue by saying that the Civil War provided us with the strong, centralized government that our forefathers failed to provide. Perhaps he is right, we can look to that for hope and guidance as the election of 2008 looms in the horizon. Well....only time will tell.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

146th Anniv. of the First Battle of Bull Run

It occurred one-hundred and forty-six years ago today. Confederate forces led by General Joesph E. Johnston & General Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard defeated the Federal army under General Irwin McDowell at the battle of First Bull Run. Union troops seemed to have victory within their grasp but General Thomas J. Jackson and his brigade held off Union assaults. Soon Confederate reinforcements began to arrive and the tide of battle quickly turned against the Confederates. Union casualties were 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing.The battle itself had several consequences. First, the Union army was routed and many soldiers didn't stop running until they reached Washington D.C. The overconfidence of both sides prior to the battle now came to haunt its losers. "The larger part of the men" wrote General McDowell "are a confused mob, entirely demoralized." During the Union retreat, the men were hammered by rainfall which didn't help their already sad state. Private Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers wrote "Many times I sat in the mud determined to go no further." Lincoln's cabinet also felt the strain of losing the battle at Bull Run. Secretary Seward wrote to Minister Adams in London: "Our Army of the Potomac, on Sunday last, met a reverse equally severe and unexpected." The low morale of the Union army would go unrelieved until General George B. McClellan took charge and trained them into a solid fighting force. After reading about the loss in the newspapers, the people of the North knew that the war was going to be a long and desperate struggle.On the Confederate side things were jubilant but their mostly untrained forces were unable to pursue their advantage. This did not stop the men in gray and their leaders from celebrating. President Jefferson Davis wired Richmond "Our forces have won a glorious victory." Even those who had not taken part in the battle were brimming with confidence. Robert E. Lee wrote to a friend "as long as there is one horse that can carry its rider & one arm to wield a sword...I prefer annihilation to submission." However, southern pride was offset in Richmond when the first wagons bearing the wounded arrived. As the maimed and the dead were brought back to the city and residents remember the horrors of the suffering and degradation. The Civil War, after a non-bloody beginning at Fort Sumter had now official begun.Before closing I should also note a few other items about First Bull Run that are significant:

1. William T. Sherman, a colonel at the time led a brigade at the battle. He would make a name for himself in the Western Theatre of the war. Just ask old timers in Atlanta about him!

2. Major Sullivan Ballou who you may remember from the Ken Burns film The Civil War, was killed in action at First Bull Run. He wrote the most famous love letter in American History.

3. The battle marked the first and not the last time Confederate officers feuded. Generals Johnston and Beauregard would quarrel over responsibility for the Confederate victory.

4. The battle is the origin of Thomas Jacksons nickname "Stonewall" and the 1st brigade of the Southern forces would also receive the same nickname for their staunch defense. The Stonewall Brigade is very historical because some of these men would serve the entire war.

5. The first of many brigade commanders for both sides would die as a result of the battle. Confederate Colonel Francis S. Bartow was killed in action and the man who gave Jackson his nickname, General Bernard Bee would be mortally wounded.

Links for pictures of the Bull Run Battlefield:First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) photos

Civilwarhome.com has more information about the battle

Source:Catton, Bruce. The Coming Fury. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961.

Original copy of the Map is located here

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is the "Lost Cause"???

Before proceeding any further with this blog I should entertain my readers with Lost Cause information. What is the Lost Cause? It is a question that can be confusing to some but I will try my best to get my readers to fully understand it. To put it simply the Lost Cause is the ultimate excuse for losing. After the Civil War ended Southerners tried to reconcile the reasoning behind a "great" society like the pre-war South losing to the Northern armies. Southern writers, mostly former Confederate generals, pushed several ideas on the historical record. Using Southern publications, newspapers and magazines the former Confederates pushed the idea of the Lost Cause on American History. These ideas have been passed down through the generations and are still issues today. Here are the main ideas of the Lost Cause:

1. The idea that Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy lost because of overwhelming military force. Lost Cause writers made it seem like Union generals had no tactical skills at all but rather had more guns and more people than the South did. With this pressure, the Confederacy had no choice but to surrender to superior numbers and force.

2. The Confederate cause was the most noblest cause that ever existed. The men who fought for the cause were the greatest soldiers in history. The most notable of these men was General Robert E. Lee. Other Confederate generals would be blamed for Lee's defeats and failure to press any advantages gained against Union forces. One paper wrote that Lee is "the noblest type of manhood that this age had produced." Also, Lee was the greatest general that the Civil War ever produced.

3. The Confederacy was attempting to preserve the Revolutionary War heritage. The Southern cause, according to the Lost Cause myth, was absolute proof that even the noblest causes fail.

4. The defense of States Rights was the reasoning behind succession. Therefore, maintain slavery was not the main reasoning behind the South firing on Fort Sumter and starting the conflict.

5. Northern Generals such as William T. Sherman were portrayed as criminals who raped the South and possessed low moral standards.

6. Secession was justified constitutionally because the South was responding to aggressive Northern tactics to change their way of life.

Southern organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and later writers of Civil War history continued to use Lost Cause mythology in their texts. The Lost Cause allowed Southerners to cope with the dramatic social, political, and economic changes that occurred during the post-war era.

Led by former Confederate General Jubal Early and perpetuated by other Southern leaders, the Lost Cause myth also maintained the following ideas:

1. Gettysburg was the absolute turning point of the war and Pickett's Charge exemplified Southern courage and nobility.

2. General James Longstreet failed the Southern cause when he failed to attack in the early morning hours of July 2, 1863 even though Lee ordered him to do so. These orders by Lee have been proven impossible by Civil War scholarship since the 1950's. From 1863 until his death in 1870 Lee never expressed the idea that Longstreet had failed to attack early in the morning or that Longstreet had failed the South. Longstreet didn't help himself by joining the Republican Party or by writing an interpretation of Lee that was both fair and honest. Other Confederate Generals like J.E.B. Stuart, Richard Ewell, A.P. Hill and George Pickett received blame but Lee received no criticism.

The Lost Cause can be seen throughout the history of American popular culture. Movies like Birth of a Nation, authors like Douglas Southall Freeman and post-war Southern art reinforced the idea of the Lost Cause. As I write these blogs, the influence of the Lost Cause on me is as strong as any Civil War writer. By recognizing it, and cross-referencing research, one can find the absolute truth that Early attempted to blur for all time.

Sources for this blog and for further reading I recommend the following books:

Connelly, Thomas Lawrence. The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Gallagher, Gary W., and Alan T. Nolan. The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

Neely, Mark E., Harold Holzer, and G. S. Boritt. The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What do the Civil War and the Titanic have in common?

I have always been fascinated with the things that make history so unique. I really enjoy reading about the connections that occur between key historical events such as the story of a father who fought for the Confederacy and his son who was a passenger onboard a ship called Titanic.
When the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912 only 800 passengers survived. One of those rescued was Colonel Archibald Gracie who had a direct family tie to the American Civil War. Colonel Gracie was born in 1859 in Mobile, Alabama which was a key port for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He grew up and became an author and was educated at West Point where he became a colonel. Gracie was very weathly and his fortune allowed him to spend time as a research historian. Besides being a Titanic survivor in 1912 his father was a Civil War general for the Confederacy. His father, Archibald Gracie Jr., had been an officer with the Washington Light Infantry of the Confederate Army, serving at the Battle of Chickamauga. Garcie was killed while observing Federal troop movements at Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. The other Gracie took seven years to write the The Truth About Chickamuaga in honor of his fallen father. Writing to book took its toll on Gracie who sought refuge in Europe for rest and relaxation. He booked a return trip on a brand new passenger ship called Titanic. After the ship sank Gracie testified at hearings that investigated the sinking and he wrote a popular book about his experiences aboard the Titanic. Gracie wrote in detail about the events that he experienced and painted the best picture of the Titanic's luvurious features. In part he wrote:

"I enjoyed myself as if I were on a summer palace by the seashore surrounded by every comfort. I was up early before breakfast and met the professional racquet player in a half hour's warming up preparatory for a swim in the six foot deep tank of saltwater heated to a refreshing temperature."

Gracie never finished proofreading his manuscript about the Titanic and died in 1913. It is very likely that the frigid waters of that April night took its toll on him and his book was published after his death. The other component of the Gracie tragedy is the story of his children. Colonel Gracie only had four daughters but only one lived to maturity. Col. Gracie's final surviving child, Edith Temple Gracie Adams, died childless in 1918, about a year after her marriage.


Titanic: A Survivor's Story and the Sinking of the S.S. Titanic by Archibald Gracie and Jack Thayer, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1988.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The forgotten general of the Confederacy: Daniel H. Hill

General Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889) was the brother-in-law of "Stonewall" Jackson and served in the Confederate armed forces for the entire war. He was a brilliant man who taught mathematics at the college level. During the Mexican War, Hill served with distinction by earning two brevets before the conflict ended. Hill is a forgotten General in Civil War literature because he was transferred around due to his ability to "offend many and conciliate none." Confederate officer E. Porter Alexender said that Hill "had done as much hard fighting as any other general." Like more famous brother-in-law, Hill was extremely religious and "earnest in his Puritan beliefs." Hill led by example, often leading attacks at the front of his men and risking his life as much as his soldiers were risking theirs. At times Hill was known to shoulder a musket and fight in the ranks with his soldiers.

This uncommon bravery inspired hope, fortitude and courage among the common ranks of his soldiers who seemed willing to follow him to the death. Ordinary soldiers wrote frequently of Hills bravery in battle, a Texas soldier marveled at Hill's "true bravery and nerve" in combat. Major James N. Edmondson observed that Hill "in action & under fire he commands the admiration & respect of everyone." Another soldier wrote that Hill was "a determined bulldog fighter...a fighter from way back." These postive comments, though wonderful, do not fully explain the reasoning behind Hill's exclusion from talk about top Civil War commanders.

D.H. Hill's courage, zeal and heroism in battle did not guarantee him a place amongst the pantheon of Civil War heroes. His fighting prowess was rarely questioned but his sarcastic negativity towards fellow officers and situations put him at odds with a lot of people who later became responsible for a large portion of post-war Civil War literature. Hill was temperamental and G. Moxley Sorrel, an good judge of character who wrote a lot about the personality of Lee's generals wrote that Hill had a "marked and peculiar character." James Longstreet backed Sorrel's statements by stating that Hill lacked some backbone because when he could see that his attacks or criticisms were destined to fail he would give up if "unrewarded" initially. Robert E. Lee wrote that Hill was "an excellent executive officer" who when left to himself "seems embarrassed and backward to act."

The head of the Confederate ordinance department, Josiah Gorgas wrote that Hill was "harsh, abrupt, often insulting in the effort to be sarcastic." Therefore, Daniel Hill made enemies easily due to his often critical analysis of those in power above him. During the war a friend wrote that Hill was destroying "with his pen the reputation the reputation he has won with his sword." Hill's tendency to deliver pessimistic opinions caused him problems with such leaders as President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee. Hill had a disagreeably ability to pick a fight with the wrong people when he felt that he was personally and morally right. Throughout Hill was moved around because he quarreled or criticized the leaders above him but avoided total censure because of his marvelous fighting prowess.

During the conflict Hill moved up that officer ladder quickly by earning a commission as colonel of the 1st North Carolina. After his regiment, fought at Big Bethel, Virginia he was awarded the rank of brigadier general on July 10, 1861. This rank place him in the armies defending the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia and Hill would remain here for over a year. After serving faithfully during the Peninsular campaign, Seven Pines, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, South Mountain and Antietam. Historian Gary Gallagher feels that Hill's sharp criticism of Robert E. Lee during these campaigns is what caused his transfer out of the Army of Northern Virginia. He states that the battle would have been a complete victory if the artillery and infantry fought "in detail" and his attack failed because of "the want of concert with the infantry divisions." Furthermore, Hill called Lee's management of the Malvern Hill battle as "blundering." Lee's direct response to the criticism is unknown but after the Sharpsburg campaign Hill was transferred away from Virginia and he served in the North Carolina defenses. This would not be the last time that Hill was pushed out of a military position and face a new assignment.

During the Gettysburg campaign, Hill was recalled to help in the defense of Richmond as Robert E. Lee moved north. After a promotion he served with General Braxton Bragg's Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Chickamauga. He later recommended Bragg's removal because Hill felt that his commanding general was incompetent. This placed it at odds with Confederate President Jefferson Davis who supported Bragg and removed Hill from command. This quarrel with Davis would later come back to haunt Hill as his opportunity to become a Lt. General went unapproved by the Confederate Congress with which Davis had influence over. Hill was moved again, this time back to North Carolina where he was given a small command in Bentonville. He would surrender with General Joseph Johnston and the Army of Tennesse to Union General William T. Sherman in 1865. After the war he ran a newspaper and magazine in North Carolina, wrote two marvelous articles in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War and also contributed to algebra and religious literature. He also served as a college administrator becoming the first president of the University of Arkansas. Hill died on September 24, 1889 and is buried in North Carolina at the Davidson College Cemetery.

General Daniel Harvey Hill was a great leader who easily found ways to get into trouble with his superiors. One wonders how far Hill's fame would have risen had he been able to keep his mouth and pen quiet. But he was a man who stood by his beliefs despite the ideas of those around him. Perhaps he summed up his attitudes best when he wrote "It is unfortunate to have views different from the rest of mankind. It secures abuse."

The above information was take from these three sources:

Boatner, Mark Mayo, Allen C. Northrop, and Lowell I. Miller. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: D. McKay Co, 1959.

Bridges, Hal., Lee's Maverick General. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1991.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Little known fact about the friendship between Lee and Longstreet

Take a close look at the picture to the left. It is a gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery and it is the final resting place for two American heroes. I didn't intend for this blog to become so focused on Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet and I promise to stop as soon as this obsessive focus stops. I did mention that Longstreet and other Confederate heroes had a fight over how the southern history of the war should be recorded. Eventually, James Longstreet was hit from so many sides with criticism that in his old age his attitude towards Lee took a slight nose dive. Lee wasn't alive to defend himself but I believe that Longstreet still viewed Lee as a good friend. Few realize that Longstreet named one of his sons after Robert E. Lee. Longstreet described his and Lee's wartime relationship as "affectionate, confidential, and even tender, from first to last." When Louise Longstreet gave birth to a son in October 1863, the couple named him Robert Lee Longstreet.

Robert Lee Longstreet was son of Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Confederate States of America. He was born at Petersburg, Virginia, on 20 October 1863. He served for a time with the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. He enlisted on October 1, 1917 and was discharged from duty on September 20, 1919. He died on 1 August 1940 and was buried in Section 15 of Arlington National Cemetery, with his brother, James Longstreet, Jr., Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army.

James Longstreet Jr., the son of James Longstreet, Lieutenant General, Confederate States of America. (31 May 1865-1922). He served in the United States Army Cavalry, serving in World War I. He died on July 15, 1922 at Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming, of heart disease while participating in a review of the 13th United States Cavalry. It amazes me that the two sons of a man who tried to overthrow the Union in the Civil War has two sons buried in Arlington National Cemetery!

Longstreets feelings for Lee are obvious because he named his own son after him. In a letter written just after Gettysburg, Longstreet wrote "The truth will be known in time, and I leave that to show how much of the responsibility of Gettysburg rests on my shoulders." At the time General Longstreet didn't know at the time how heavy that "responsibility" would be. It would define his military career, his later life, and cause many historians to have a negative opinion of him.

The above information was taken from the following webpages:

Wert, Jeffry D., James Longstreet: Robert E. Lee's Most Valuable Soldier. Article located at http://www.historynet.com/historical_figures/3446371.html?page=1&c=y as of July 17, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

General James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee

There is a lot of Civil War research and materials regarding James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee. I have always found it interesting to read about their relationship and I am always looking for the source that really describes their friendship in detail. That source may not exist and during the war Longstreet was careful to avoid being critical of Lee's generalship. For those that don't know, Lee died in 1870 just five years after the war ended and this opened up the debate about his leadership abilities. General Jubal Early and other Confederate leaders helped make Lee into the perfect general whose only flaw was those individuals who failed him in battle. In Civil War literature it was impossible to criticize Lee or write materials that properly assesses his generalship. General James Longstreet was one of the individuals who received a lot of the blame for Lee's failure at Gettysburg. Early and others led this attack on Longstreet's generalship and for the most part avoided any attack on Robert E. Lee. Therefore, it became taboo and downright criminal for a historian or former Confederate to question Lee's decisions on the battlefield. When Longstreet began publishing materials he rated Lee behind Grant, Lincoln and even Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. This put him at odds with Early and other writers who tried to make Lee match his "marble man" nickname. But in some of Longstreets writings, he finds a way to talk about Lee in a unbiased way that brings Lee's strengths and weakness to the forefront.

While writing for The Century Magazine Longstreet produced an article which portrayed Lee as many historians view him today. Written during the height of the Early & Longstreet quarrels, this quote is important because Longstreet avoids criticism of Lee in response to an Early attack. Moreover, the quote by Longstreet paints a portrait of Lee's generalship and abilities that is accurate by todays standards. Here is the quote:

"General Lee was an unusually handsome man, even in his advanced life. He seemed fresh from West Point, so trim was his figure and so elastic his step. Out of battle he was as gently as a woman, but when the clash of arms came he loved fight, and urged his battle with wonderful determination. As a usual thing he was remarkably well-balanced---always so, except on one or two occasions of severe trial when he failed to maintain his exact equipoise. Lee's orders were always well considered and well chosen. He depended almost too much on his officers for their execution.....Without a doubt the greatest man of rebellion times, the one matchless among forty millions for the peculiar difficulties of the period was Abraham Lincoln."

Even for the casual reader it is obvious that such a quote put Longstreet at odds with or didn't help any cause against Lee's supporters. This is not a criticism of James Longstreet but for a former Confederate to say that Abraham Lincoln was the true genus of the war gave Longstreet's detractors more ammunition to use against him. I doubt that Longstreet felt so strongly about Lincoln during the war and his opinion of "Honest Abe" needs to be taken in the context of Longstreets Republican identification which sought to lionize Lincoln in the same manner that Confederates tried to immortalize Lee. However, I truly agree with Longstreet about Lincoln and I want it to be known that I agree with "Old Pete's" assessment of Lee as a man. His statement about Lee staying under control except for the occasions where "he failed to maintain his exact equipoise" brings images of Gettysburg to mind. I wonder if Longstreet was talking about July 1-3 1863 when General Lee pushed his army too far. General Longstreet felt that Lee was a good man but he pointed out that Lee did make mistakes. In Longstreet's eyes, Lee was not an immortal god, above reproach and free of error but rather a man who had flaws. Perhaps what Longstreet saw and what Early didn't see is that Lee was a true American hero, who did great things but had his own demons and suffered setbacks. After all, what makes a hero is the ability to bounce back, to stand the test of time and to see things to the end despite the possibility of failure. Such a person was Robert E. Lee.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Interesting quote about Robert E. Lee

J.B. Polley was a member of John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade during the Civil War. I previously mentioned that there are a lot of books about the Texas Brigade but very little is written about Law's Alabama Brigade. It is important when researching a topic that your look into related topics and ideas. Since the Texas Brigade was within the same division as Law's and since both brigades fought together it is important to study Hood's famous brigade. Author J.B. Polley wrote a great book about his adventures within the brigade. As I was reviewing this important source an interesting quote about Robert E. Lee sprung out from the pages.

Lee receives, and rightfully so, a lot of the blame for the failure of the Confederacy at Gettysburg. Most of this blame is due to his combative nature as a commander and his impulsive attitude in battle. Polley writes:

"The truth is, that while he was a great general, a profound and wily strategist, a consummate master of the art of war, Robert E. Lee the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, was in temperament a game cock. The mere presence of an enemy aroused his pugnacity, and was a challenge he found it hard to decline, and at Gettysburg, impossible....the pugnacity inherited from a long line of fighting ancestors thrilled the nerves of the Confederate commander and dominated an ordinarily cool judgement; the enemy invited and challenged a contest, and a contest he should have."

Polley even researched General Lees own report on Gettysburg to back up this statement. In his official report Lee wrote "It had not been intended to deliver a great battle so far from our base unless attacked. But coming unexpectedly upon the whole Federal army, to withdraw through the mountains with out extensive trains would have been difficult and dangerous." In a nutshell Lee's report tells me two things. First, he wasn't ready for a general engagement. This should not shock experts on the Battle of Gettysburg because Lee's three corps were spread throughout the countryside. Secondly, Lee might have been making an excuse for bringing on an engagement because he saw a chance for winning the war. Lee once wrote General Hood that he felt his men were "invincible" and since they had defeated or fought to a draw the Union Army of the Potamac in every battle since he took command then Lee's conclusion seems plausible. July 1st didn't help matters as the Army of Northern Virginia pushed back the Federal army to the ridges and hills beyond Gettysburg. If you research the battle you will no doubt come to the conclusion that Lee felt that one more push, one decisive blow would win a victory on Northern soil and put the Union in a perilous position. Lee was an aggressive commander and as author Shelby Foote once said "Gettysburg was the price the South paid for having R.E. Lee." Gettysburg cost Lee's army 1/3 of its fighting force and that was a heavy blow to the Southern cause. Lee gambled as he had on so many battlefields and every gambler must lose eventually. At sake was Southern independence and the Lee's gamble failed.

This infomation was taken from J. B. Polley, Hood's Texas Brigade, Dayton, OH: Morningside Bookshop, 1976.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Law's Alabama Brigade book review: My first book review

Mike's Book Review:

Law's Alabama Brigade in the War Between the Union and the Confederacy is a great read for any Civil War buff. In Seinfeld George asks "How do I become a buff? I wish I was a buff." If you dream of the same thing that George does or if you are a buff already this book is required for your library shelf.

There are tons of books on Hood's Texas Brigade but its counterpart in the same division hasn't recieved the same aclaim until authors J. Gary Laine and Morris M. Penny produced this book in 1996. They clearly articulate the fact that General Evander M. Law's brigade of Alabamians was as key to the Confederate army as Hood's. Law's Brigade consisted of the 4th, 15th, 44th, 47th and 48th Alabama regiments and this group of regiments was a tough group of men who caused a lot of headaches in the Union army. During the Battle of the Wilderness when Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was nearly broken in two, the brigade pushed forward to plug the gap and this act saved the Confederate army. The brigade also served at Gettysburg and was the group that helped break the Union defenses in the Devils Den. They also were part of the Confederate attack force that nearly succeeded in taking Little Round Top. The brigade also was successful at Gaines Mill in 1862 and Chickamuaga in 1863 by participating in the key assualts that resulted in Sourthern victories. Morris and Penny use a blend of primary and secondary sources and spent nearly nine years researching this book. All one has to do is examine the sources that the authors used. This is truely an original work and both Morris and Penny deserve credit for taking such a risk in authorship.

Morris M. Penny and J. Gary Laine had ancestors that fought in Law's brigade. Because of this you can tell that both men were sold into producing a text that is both informative, emotional and historical. One cannot help but feel sorry for the brigade as it makes its final march at Appomattox. The authors also refuse to take sides in the infamous rival between General Micah Jenkins and Evander Law for command of Hoods division after he recieved the wounds and transfer that took him out of the Army of Northern Virginia. Moreover, the authors also dedicate time to the little known facts and infomation about the brigade. The story of Captain Reuben Kidd of the 4th Alabama comes to mind. The regiment fought from First Bull Run to Appomattox and Kidd was an original member of this powerful fighting force. Captain Kidd was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. On page 149 Morris and Penny write

Kidd was "killed near the La Fayette Road by a shot in the chest." Kidd served the regiment faithfully by enlisting as a private at twenty-one years of age and working his way up to the rank of captain. Two of his comrades took Kidd's body and buried it near an oak tree. Almost three years later the pair returned to the battlefied and failed to locate the body. In fact, Kidd's body has never been recovered. At the conclusion of the book, the authors provide a "Where are they now" component which discuss what the key players in Law's brigade did after the war. Of interest is the life of Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Bulger of the 47th Alabama regiment. Bulger was involved in veteren affairs after the war and attended a 1898 reunion of the 47th Alabama. His attendence is unique because he was 92 years old at the time. A news reporter identified him as the oldest living officer of the Confederate. This was never proven but Bulger might have been the oldest living officer that had ever donned the gray of the Confederacy. After the reunion, Bulger lived for eight more years and died on September 11, 1900. Colonel Bulger is currently honored at a website online by a decedent. Currenly this webpage is located at http://www.auburn.edu/~barnejr/regiments/47th/index.html

By relying on the primary sources, first hand accounts and a small blend of secondary sources Morris and Penny have created a book that every historian studing the Army of Northern Virginia need to take note of. I highly recommend this book and I will assign it 4 1/2 out of five stars. As a side note the book is over 360 pages long and contains additional chapters which include the Brigade Field and Staff infomation, The organization of each regiment, a roster of officers, statistics about the size of the brigade, a listing of every battle and skirmish that the brigade was involved in, casuality lists of the brigade from Gettysburg, Chickamuaga, and The Wilderness, and finally the never before published resignation of E.M. Law which caused so much controversy in James Longstreet Corps. The book also has 48 maps on the battles and movements of Law's Brigade. This book is a great read you have to get it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Evander M. Law

Recently I began researching the life of Evander M. Law who was a Confederate General. My plan is to someday write a biography of Law and perhaps a history of the 4th Alabama regiment with which he was a part of and led. Here is a picture of him for those interested. This adventure will take me to several states over the next few years and hopefully this blog will allow me to bring the news to my readers. My first stop is Bartow, Florida this winter. Law lived in this city for the last few decades of his life. He was deeply involved in the school system of Florida and after contacting the historical society in Bartow I was able to find out that it contains many of his papers and other items.
Sorry I 've been ranting and raving here without introducing General Law to my readers. Evander McIvor Law was born in Darlington, South Carolina, on August 7, 1836. In 1856, he graduated from the South Carolina Military Academy, and was an instructor during his senior year. Helping establish the Military High School in Tuskegee, Alabama, he enlisted in the 4th Alabama when the state announced its secession. He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, and was seriously wounded. Law led his troops though the Peninsula Campaign, the Seven Days' Campaign, the Battle of Gaines' Mill, the Second Battle of Bull Run and at Antietam.
Promoted to brigadier general on October 2, 1862, he led a brigade at Fredricksburg, and began the Confederate attacks at Little Round Top. When Brig. Gen. John B. Hood was severely wounded at Little Round Top, the controversy over who should replace him brought Law into conflict with Maj. Gen. James Longstreet and with Law's rival, Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins. In December of 1863, Law resigned, and Jenkins wanted Law court-martialed. The War Department did not prefer charges, however, and Law returned to the corps. After participating in the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, being wounded at the latter, he commanded a cavalry unit until the end of the war. After the Civil War, Law moved to Florida, helped establish the state's educational system and worked as a newspaperman, remaining active in veteran affairs. Law died in Bartow, Florida on October 31, 1920.
The above biography can be found at: http://www.historycentral.com/bio/CWcGENS/CSALaw.html
My personal webpage on Law can be found at:
Recommended Reading for those interested:

Getting Started

Well, this is the beginning of my blog. I have nothing to say yet, but more will be coming. I love talking politics, history and about life in general. Mostly, this blog will focus on my research and whatever else comes to me. It'll be a lot of fun. Enjoy!

My Civil War interests are but not confined to the following:

1. The life of Abraham Lincoln
2. The life of Robert E. Lee
3. The lives of the Confederate high command including post-war literature related to the Lost Cause.
4. The Lincoln Assassination
5. Law's Alabama Brigade